Monday, April 30, 2012
Praying For Survival: The Hassidization of Litvaks
Lately, with a number of elderly Haredi Gedolim being very sick, there has been many people in the Haredi community calling upon the community to pray for their health. Previously, I have discussed whether this is as much of a life-changing crisis as some are describing it, but in this post I want to discuss a different point. I was somewhat taken aback to see that much of the talk about the need to pray for the health of the Gedolim asserts that the reason why it is so important is that the Gedolim are needed in order to pray for our own survival.
Let's leave aside, for now, the question of whether this makes the entire effort somewhat selfish. I am more intrigued by the theological concept that is implicitly being presented here. Instead of us praying for our survival, we are better off simply praying for the Gedolims' survival. The Gedolim are assumed to be better at praying for our survival than we are, and thus, to the extent that our prayers are effective, they are best directed towards the health of the Gedolim, rather than directed towards the things that we want the Gedolim to pray for.
Now, this seems to be consistent with Chassidic thought. In Chassidic circles, it is only the Admor that has a significant connection to God. Everyone else connects to God via the Admor - eating his shirayim, etc. But is it consistent with Litvishe thought? My impression is that Litvaks had traditionally subscribed to קרוב ה' לכל קוראיו - "God is close to all that call upon Him." You don't pray for someone else to be able to pray for you - you just pray yourself for the things that you need. Am I wrong?
(On another note, I still have an opening in my schedule for Shabbos July 21 in the NY/ NJ region and Shabbos August 11 in LA - please write if you want to schedule a scholar-in-residence weekend.)
Posted by Natan Slifkin